The One Food That Will Help You Live Longer
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The One Food That Will Help You Live Longer

This magical food is filling, affordable and may even add years to your life.

In search of a food that will satiate hunger, keep you full throughout the day and boost your health? Beans, peas and lentils, all members of the legume family, are loaded with fiber and protein and may even add years to your life. One seven-year study found that for every additional 1/3 cup of beans seniors ate each day, their risk of dying fell seven to eight percent. According to Blue Zones’ Power 9 principles, a typical centenarian—a person who lives to be at least 100 years old—living in a Blue Zone, eats meat, typically pork, only five times each month. The cornerstone of these people’s diet? You guessed it—legumes.

A diet free of legumes may have adverse effects on health. A bean-free diet may increase risk of metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Additionally, one study suggests women who don’t consume beans have a higher mortality rate than those who do. Eating legumes is beneficial in the short-term, too. Consuming beans and other legumes each day lowers your risk of certain conditions, halts the development of some disease and promotes overall health.

Why you should load up on legumes

  • Reduce cholesterol levels: Beans are loaded with fiber—about 60 percent of the daily recommended value in one cup of black beans. Black beans also contain soluble fiber, which reduces your body’s absorption of cholesterol and can decrease high cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease. Consuming between five and 10 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower cholesterol—a cup of black bean contains more than seven grams. Opt for dried beans or rinse canned beans to remove excess salt. Too much sodium in your diet can increase blood pressure, another heart disease risk factor.
  • Lower diabetes risk: Legumes have a low glycemic load, which is beneficial for many reasons, including regulating blood sugar levels. A glycemic load determines how much a food will affect blood sugar levels. Aim to consume a total daily glycemic load less than 100; a half a cup of kidney beans has a load of six. Legumes also prevent blood sugar spikes, so they provide your body with steady energy.
  • Fight diseases like cancer: Legumes are loaded with fiber, which may prevent some digestive cancers. Beans, especially black beans, contain nutrients, like antioxidants and flavonoids, that help fight disease.
  • Help control weight: Legumes are low in calories. When consumed in excess, both can contribute a few extra inches to your waistline. A half-cup of garbanzo beans contains only 135 calories and no saturated fat, plus fiber and protein, which keep you fuller for longer. Fiber also promotes regularity.

Sneak legumes into every meal
The weekly recommended intake of beans for adult men and women is between two and three cups, but Americans seldom reach these goals. Incorporating legumes into your diet can be simple and tasty, too.

  • Hide black beans in brownies by swapping flour for pureed black beans.
  • Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, can be blended into a hummus spread and added to a sandwich or used as a dip for veggies.
  • Swap half a cup of cooked lentils for your typical protein in your lunchtime salad. They contain only 115 calories, and 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber.
  • Pea soup makes a hearty meal or puree a cup of peas in your next bowl of pesto.
  • Start your morning with a boost of energy and a punch of fiber, protein and iron by folding plump kidney beans into an omelet, instead of bacon or ham.

Include some of these swaps in your meals and check your progress by taking the RealAge Test. This test measures how your lifestyle and family history affect your longevity. If your RealAge is lower than your biological age, you’re on track to live a healthier life.